By Rich Bevensee
Hitting a home run is supposed to be one of baseball’s most difficult tasks, yet anyone who was watching the Sandlot Baseball Academy 12U squad this weekend at Diamond Nation would attest that those young men hit homers about as regularly as most people tie their shoes or brush their teeth.
Yes, balls were flying out of the park THAT often.
In a longball display seldom seen at ‘The Nation,’ Sandlot cranked out 16 home runs over five games, including three in the 12U championship game – a 15-12 victory over the Richmond County Baseball Club Ghost 12U Nationals – to capture the Spring Classic title on Sunday afternoon in Flemington.
“We just pick each other up and we get a good streak that keeps going and it continues the whole game,” said Sandlot shortstop Matty Seitzinger, named Most Valuable Player of the tournament after hitting .800 with five home runs this weekend. “We just lift each other up. One guy gets a good hit and everyone wants to keep it going.”
Six players sent balls out of the park in the final, three from each team, including Seitzinger, whose two-run homer in the fifth inning was his seventh of the season.
RCBC was the first to clear the fence in the final, as the Nationals hit three homers in the bottom of the second inning to fuel an eight-run rally and take an 8-6 lead. Dominic Napolitano hit an opposite field solo homer to right, Angelo Regina cranked a no-doubt-about-it grand slam to center, and Nick Newbranch socked a line drive, three-run homer to left.
Trailing 10-6, Sandlot responded in the top of the fourth. After Nick Hricenak doubled in a run, winning pitcher Chase Magnot belted a three-run shot to left to tie the game at 10-10. The next batter was Nathaniel Kayal, who stroked a solo homer to dead center. Carson Stephens added an RBI groundout and Tommy Mackriell scored on the same play on a throwing error for a 13-10 Sandlot lead.
Magnot hit his fifth homer of the tournament and his eighth of the season, and Kayal hit four homers in the tournament and pushed his season total to seven.
RCBC trimmed its deficit by one on a James Giovannone RBI single in the bottom of the fourth, but Sandlot kept the longball fireworks going in the fifth when Seitzinger blasted a two-run bomb to left, his seventh of the season.
Also for Sandlot this weekend, Hricenak and Graham Kelly both went deep.
Sandlot scored 68 runs in five games in the tournament. Pool play victories over Shelton Siege, 10-2, and Loyalsock, 13-2, and a tie with Prime Baseball North, 14-14, was followed by a 16-15 win over Deck Dogs 12U in the semifinals.
“We hit the ball pretty well and we score a lot of runs, usually, and 12U baseball is a slugfest,” Sandlot coach Chris Davis said. “We hit 15 home runs in our first tournament two weeks ago in Newburgh (N.Y.), which it won). I’ve had these boys since they were eight years old, so these guys have been growing together. We work a lot, we practice a lot, we put in a lot of time with these guys and I have a good coaching staff that helps out.”
Magnot finished the game 2-for-4 with four RBI. Also for Sandlot, Jason Jones singled and had a sacrifice fly, Mackriell singled, doubled and drove in a run, and Carson Stephens doubled, drove in a run and scored a run.
“We practice a lot and we always hit in every practice,” Magnot said. “We work on hitting different pitches and we have a lot of experience because we’ve been together since 8U. When we start hitting, it makes everyone want to do the same thing – swing at good pitches and not bad ones.”
For RCBC, Napolitano went 2-for-3 with a homer. Aldo Ramovic was 2-for-3 with a double and a pair of RBI. Brendan Swanson singled, doubled and drove in a run.
In RCBC’s path to the final, an 8-8 tie with N.Y. Prospects was followed by victories over Adrenaline Black, 6-2, and Diamond Jacks 12U Gold, 12-3, in pool play. The Nationals then knocked off Diamond Jacks Super 12U, 9-7, in the semis.